Union members picket Fresh & Easy worksite | January 2, 2009 | Danville Express | DanvilleSanRamon.com |


Danville Express

Newsfront - January 2, 2009

Union members picket Fresh & Easy worksite

Picketers say carpenter wages are too low

by Geoff Gillette

Early Monday morning, members of Carpenters Union Local 405 marched outside the chain link fence set up around the former Albertsons grocery store on Diablo Road, in an informational picket protesting the use of non-union contractors paying less than union scale.

Equipped with bullhorns and giant inflatable rats, 16 members of the union walked along the perimeter of the fence, chanting slogans and calling for equitable wages.

"Without the employees, the employers can't make the money they are taking home," called out Union Representative Walter Murcia. "Come on, Ciarra, do the right thing. No peace for Ciarra Construction until they do the right thing."

Union Spokesman Paul Cohen said the issue is not that Ciarra and the primary contractor are non-union shops but that they pay lower wages, undercutting union carpenters. "We have an issue with them paying below established wages for carpenters in the area," he said.

Local 405 represents around 3,500 workers, primarily in the South Bay. Cohen said undercutting wages creates difficulties for those union carpenters who live and work locally.

"When someone comes in and tries to profit at the expense of the workers it makes it that much tougher," he stated.

Ciarra Construction President Walt Oxley said the picket is something he sees periodically at his job sites.

"They'll picket us at random sites," said Oxley. "Usually in times like this where the economy gets a little slow they start picketing us more."

Oxley did not give specifics on the pay he offers his employees but he did say he feels they are not underpaying.

"We offer very competitive wages, health benefits and a 401k. We're very good to our employees." He added, "The union's been trying to organize for 23 years and not been successful. I think that says something about how we treat our employees."

Cohen said this is not about the union attempting to organize the employees of Ciarra Construction, which is located in San Jose. "It's that they're paying what we feel is a ridiculously low wage," he said.

Ciarra Construction has been working on improvements for the new Fresh & Easy store for the past three weeks. Oxley said he expects the work to last another three to four weeks. The informational picket at the site is not uncommon, he said, and he has seen others at job sites all throughout the area.


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Posted by Ray Carr
a resident of Danville
on Jan 2, 2009 at 7:27 am

What a great and free country we live in! It gives the union the freedom and opportunity to express their views (w/ bullhorn & large rats) and it gives the employer the freedom to establsh his business' policies and to hire who he wants within the law.

Most importantly, prospective employees have the freedom to decide to either work or not work for this employer.

Maybe the construction firm ought to embrace the union like the auto industry has done over the decades; he'd then be eligible to get bailed out for selling low quality products that people don't want to purchase. That seems to be our new road to socialism.

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Posted by Maxwell
a resident of San Ramon Valley High School
on Jan 6, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Honestly, if one wishes to be part of a union, they can choose to work for an employer who uses union labor.

The company in question obviously pays adequate wages and provides good enough benefits to keep their employees, so I'm not sure why the union picketers are out there at all.

This doesn't affect your job (considering you have one, after spending your weekday mornings picketing OTHER people's job sites).

And on a side note, I'm very excited for Fresh and Easy to open, provided they ever get the construction done.

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Posted by maurice
a resident of Alamo
on Jan 9, 2009 at 8:41 am

In this economy we are seeing the effects of a willing buyer and seller on price. When the unions realize, this, they meay decide to renegotiate their pay scales to the current market. The reason they are able to picket is, guess what? No union construction jobs available, except government contracts that the unions control through their bought an paid for politicians.